The Sandbox: Stories of Human Spirit and War, written by Mike Liguori, is an outstanding chronicle of his attempts to fight the war in Iraq and on the home front, after being discharged from the Marines. Mike discussed his two tours in the Al Anbar Province as a truck driver in the motor transport unit, and after arriving home how he struggled with PTS (post traumatic stress.) He wrote this book to find a purpose to his life after war.
The book was titled, “Sandbox, because when you arrived in Iraq there is nothing but sand, looking like a giant sandbox with just these borders, and no vegetation. It was like quicksand, a trap that I was stuck in. By the way, military jargon called Iraq, ‘the big old sandbox.’”
The parts about serving in Iraq were very revealing since he constantly had thoughts of killing and death. He said this was no more evident than when he saw children on the streets and “all the kids knew was that we were Americans and that was enough for them to hate us…A kid raised one hand in the shape of a handgun, and pointed it directly at me. He pulled the imaginary trigger, smirking as if he had hit me.”
After arriving home he remembers how he felt, both isolated and fearful, that the sounds of Iraq were all around him. He told blackfive.net that he was trapped in a dark hole, being overweight, unhappy, depressed, and a very heavy drinker. It all came to a head when he attempted to commit suicide. He describes it; “I had planned to cut myself with a knife. I walked over to the knife drawer in my kitchen and opened it. A voice in my ear calmly whispered to me to put it down. I shut the drawer as hard as I could and cried. I had never cried like that in my life. I realized I was just trying to hurt myself. I decided to ask for help and take the support of others, that this was not a sign of weakness.”
He decided to write this book because it was easier to write his feelings than express them verbally. Mike was glad that he was able to chronicle his experiences without having anyone immediately respond or give feedback. “I could write without any judgment and share my experiences on my timeline. I think writing this book became therapeutic and empowered me.”
Like other veterans, after graduating college with a business degree he is currently unemployed and points out that the unemployment rate among veterans is a whopping 29.1%. Because of that he decided to start a non-profit organization, Operation Work Warriors, dedicated to helping veterans transition from the military to the civilian workforce. “People need to understand that combat vets served their country honorably. There should be a standard out there to help the vet.”
Mike is hopeful that those who read the book, The Sandbox: Stories of Human Spirit and War, will see that “no matter how bad things can get or whatever your situation, you’ve got to keep on pushing through. Things might get worse before they get better, but I am encouraged that my story transitioning from war to assimilating back home will help other vets and their families, that there is help out there to assist you in finding a purpose.”
This book is very insightful for those who want to understand what soldiers went through during the war and how they fought a war after arriving home. He explains in detail through his personal story how PTS is very treatable. This book is a must read because Mike shows for all those with PTS that there are success stories and he is not afraid to discuss his journey from defeat to triumph.